Having Our Meat and Eating it, Too

Have you been stopped by “The Meat Police” before? There you are, minding your business, eating a veggie burger or Tofurky sausage or what-have-you, when someone feels compelled to point out that a vegan is eating a meat-shaped food. Or, more likely, you’ve seen comments beneath photos and news articles about animal-free meats. What I don’t get is why do vegans avoid meat but then eat foods shaped like meat?

The question is meant to be rhetorical. The implied answer is that we eat plant-based meats because we miss the “real thing,” that a diet free of animal products is deficient in this, that, or the other thing. The inquisitor, typically disinterested in any and all responses, believes asking the question to be the same as answering it. In fact, they often seem offended at the prospect of meat minus slaughter, smugly conveying their distaste with a question certain to stump the vegans.

Most of us were not born vegan. Most likely, we spent well over a decade eating meat and animal products, and probably enjoyed them. A citation is certainly needed for this claim, but I suspect that the enjoyment of non-vegan foods contributes to the enormous recidivism rate among vegans and vegetarians.

In other words, veganism has historically been difficult partly because people miss the foods they’ve grown up with.

That’s certainly changing. We’re entering the renaissance of vegan cuisine. We have incredible burgers, pizzas, donuts, cheeses, cakes, cupcakes, milks, butters, and so on, much of it (probably) available at your local grocery store. We’re entering a world where vegan options are on par with the non-vegan options, and not just in the eyes of herbivores.

It’s no wonder we’re meeting resistance. People want to cling to the idea that meat without the slaughter doesn’t taste as good, that milk without the exploitation isn’t as creamy, that scrambled eggs without the battery cages aren’t as delicious. Yet we live in a world where non-vegans are finding out every day that these are myths.

When people are offended or even grossed out by the idea of animal-free meat, and feel a need to express this discomfort publicly, they’re telling on themselves. They’ve fallen for the myth. And those who have fallen for it really don’t want it to be false.

So how do we respond to these people? One simple way is to explain that many vegans grew up eating meat and animal products, and don’t necessarily dislike the way they taste (a really common misconception people have about vegans).

Another is to explain that we shouldn’t be deprived of entire categories of cuisine just because they’ve historically necessitated torture. We like meat, dairy, and/or eggs, we just don’t like causing unnecessary suffering. Why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy those foods now that they can be crafted without animals?

To those who express disgust, we can point out that conventional meat is far more disgusting. Aside from the pathogens and parasites that are often found in it, Consumer Reports found feces in all 458 pounds of ground beef they tested.

We can have our meat and eat it, too. I suspect this is what The Meat Police fear: if there are vegan products that taste as good or better than their animal-based analogues, there remains no reason, not even a bad one, for continuing to consume conventional meat.

Even worse, it means admitting the vegans have been right all along.

 

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